Daniel comes to Babylon in the first deportation in 605 BC, and he remains there throughout his entire life. The book is naturally divided into two parts: Chapters 1-6 are the better-known stories from Daniel’s life, and chapters 7-12 consist of visions. Both parts are chronological inside.
Here is a summary of the content of the chapters:
- Daniel and his friends resist pressure from the most powerful man in the world at the time and do not compromise with “the world” in terms of what they believe in and what values they hold most important. And they were probably only in their teens!
- Daniel interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (and also tells him what he dreamed in the first place). The main point is that in the time of the fourth kingdom (i.e., in the time of Jesus) God will establish His eternal kingdom, which will spread over the whole earth.
- Daniel’s friends resist the pressure and refuse to bow down to the king’s statue. Regardless of whether God is going to save them or not, they will not give in.
- Nebuchadnezzar goes mad and loses the throne until he recognizes that he is not god but that God is God.
- Belshazzar is Babylon’s last king and reigns when the Persians capture the city and become the dominating world power in 539 BC. The writing on the wall is God’s judgment on Babylon.
- The Persians have taken over, but history repeats itself for Daniel. He again stands against the pressure from worldly power. He also has such an unblemished character that they must look to his faith to catch him on anything.
- Daniel has dreams and visions of four animals rising out of the sea. These represent the world kingdoms from the time of Daniel until the time of the Messiah. The fourth beast makes war against the saints until God comes.
- Daniel has a vision of a male goat overcoming a ram. This is explained as the Greeks taking power from the Persians sometime after Daniel.
- Realizing that the time of exile is over, Daniel prays to God on behalf of the people. The angel Gabriel comes with an answer about what will happen during 70 weeks.
- In a revelation, Daniel sees a supernatural person with a message about the future. Daniel is so overwhelmed that he must find the strength to talk to this person.
- The message is a detailed description of the war between the “King of the North” and the “King of the South”.
- Daniel is told to hide these words for now, and he is given a promise that there will be a resurrection from the dead where God’s people will shine like the stars forever.
Since the book is linked to world history, it is necessary to have an overview of this too to understand the content. The most important events are:
539 BC: Persia defeats Babylon and becomes a great world power
333 BC: Greece defeats Persia and becomes a great world power
167 BC: Antiochus IV desecrates the Temple → Maccabean Revolt
164 BC: The temple is cleansed and rededicated
63 BC: Rome takes Jerusalem
27 BC: Rome becomes a great world power and Greece falls
Especially the statue in chapter 2 and the animals in chapter 7 are about these rough features in world history. Chapter 2 predicts world history up to the time of Jesus and that God’s kingdom will then be established in the time of the 4th kingdom: “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.” (2:44)
In the Book of Daniel, Greece is called “Javan”, and the Greco-Syrian Empire (Seleucid Empire, the eastern part of the former Greek Empire) is represented by Antiochus IV (although his name is not mentioned). He wanted to be worshiped as Zeus and therefore took the name Epiphanes (“manifest”) but was instead called “Epimanes” (“madman”) by many. His kingdom was politically and economically unstable, so he tried to create unity by making everyone Greek, especially through religion. Under him, the position of the high priest was put up for sale, he ordered the Jewish law scrolls to be destroyed, and the Sabbath, circumcision, and sacrifices were forbidden under the death penalty. The Jews were forced to sacrifice unclean animals on idol altars and to eat pork, with torture and capital punishment as a result. It culminated in 167 BC when an altar to Zeus was set up in the temple, and a pig was sacrificed on it. Temple prostitution, as in Greek temples, was also introduced.
This led to the Maccabean Revolt (167-164 BC), led by Judas Maccabeus. They fought the Seleucids, tore down pagan altars, circumcised uncircumcised children, destroyed the altar of Zeus in the temple in Jerusalem, built a new altar, and installed a priest who had been faithful to God. In 164 BC, exactly three years after the desecration, the temple was rededicated, and the daily sacrifices resumed. This is the background for the Jewish Hanukkah celebration today.
The book is perhaps primarily intended for the Jews in the 2nd century BC who experienced persecution under Antiochus IV, and it would encourage them to resist the pressure and persevere.
The animals in chapter 7 complement the statue in chapter 2 with more details. The expression “Son of Man” Jesus took from 7:13-14: “…one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” The book of Daniel is about the kingdom of God, and Jesus is the Son of Man who established God’s eternal kingdom on earth for real.
- What is the kingdom of God?
- How does one live as a citizen of God’s kingdom?
Retrieved from David Helm
How can we live for God in a world that rejects Him?
Is there even any point to live for God when His kingdom often seems so far away?
Is it possible to be a blessing to our country and show who God is, even in our time?
TIMELINE OF THE NEW BABYLONIAN EMPIRE
626: Rebellion of general Nabopolassar against Assyria
612: Nineveh falls
609: Assyria falls
605: Battle of Carchemish. Egypt is overcome, and Babylon becomes a world power.
KINGS OF THE NEW BABYLONIAN EMPIRE
605-562: Nebuchadnezzar II
BABYLON’S THREE ATTACKS ON JERUSALEM:
605 BC: Some of the royal family and aristocracy (Daniel) are deported to prevent rebellions and to benefit from them in Babylon. Jehoiakim remained as a vassal king. (2 Kings 24:1-2)
597 BC: 10,000 were deported: Jehoiachin, the chiefs, the courtiers, the rich, soldiers, artisans, all the temple treasures, and Ezekiel.
Zedekiah is installed as king. (2 Kings 24:10-17)
586 BC: The rest of the people (only the poor) remain in Jerusalem. The temple is destroyed, and Zedekiah is taken, but Jeremiah remains. (2 Kings 25)
539 BC: Persia defeats Babylon and becomes a world power
333 BC: Alexander the Great and Greece defeat Persia. Greece becomes a world power
323 BC: Alexander dies, and the kingdom is divided between his four generals. Relevant to Daniel:
– Ptolemy gets Egypt; Seleucus gets Syria
167 BC: Antiochus IV Epiphanes desecrates the temple; Maccabean revolt begins
164 BC: The temple is cleansed and rededicated
63 BC: Rome captures Jerusalem
27 BC: Rome defeats Greece and becomes a world power
ANTIOCHUS IV EPIPHANES
- Reign: 175–163 BC
- The Bible’s most unknown villain
- Wanted to be worshiped as Zeus. Took the name Epiphanes (“manifested”) but was called Epimanes (“madman”).
- Wanted to stabilize the empire by making everyone Greek, especially through religion. Practicing Judaism was forbidden, and the Jews were persecuted.
- Peaked in 167 BC, when a pig was sacrificed to Zeus in the Temple in Jerusalem (“the abomination that destroys”).
1 Maccabees 1:41-49
“Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people and that all should give up their particular customs. All the nations accepted the command of the king. Many even from Israel gladly adopted his religion; they sacrificed to idols and profaned the Sabbath. And the king sent letters by messengers to Jerusalem and the towns of Judah; he directed them to follow customs strange to the land, to forbid burnt offerings and sacrifices and drink offerings in the sanctuary, to profane Sabbaths and festivals, to defile the sanctuary and the holy ones, to build altars and sacred precincts and shrines for idols, to sacrifice pigs and other unclean animals, and to leave their sons uncircumcised. They were to make themselves abominable by everything unclean and profane so that they would forget the law and change all the ordinances.” 1 Maccabees 1:41-49, New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition
1 Maccabees 1:54-64
“Now on the fifteenth day of Chislev, in the one hundred forty-fifth year, they erected a desolating sacrilege on the altar of burnt offering. They also built altars in the surrounding towns of Judah and offered incense at the doors of the houses and in the streets. The books of the law that they found they tore to pieces and burned with fire. Anyone found possessing the book of the covenant or anyone who adhered to the law was condemned to death by decree of the king. They kept using violence against Israel, against those who were found month after month in the towns. On the twenty-fifth day of the month they offered sacrifice on the altar that was on top of the altar of burnt offering. According to the decree, they put to death the women who had their children circumcised and their families and those who circumcised them, and they hung the infants from their mothers’ necks. But many in Israel stood firm and were resolved in their hearts not to eat unclean food. They chose to die rather than to be defiled by food or to profane the holy covenant, and they did die. Very great wrath came upon Israel.” 1 Maccabees 1:54-64, New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition
2 Maccabees 6:1-9
“Not long after this, the king sent an Athenian senator to compel the Jews to forsake the laws of their ancestors and no longer to live by the laws of God, also to pollute the temple in Jerusalem and to call it the temple of Olympian Zeus and to call the one in Gerizim Zeus-the-Friend-of-Strangers, as the people who live in that place are known.
Harsh and utterly grievous was the onslaught of evil. For the temple was filled with debauchery and reveling by the nations, who dallied with prostitutes and had intercourse with women within the sacred precincts and besides brought in things for sacrifice that were unfit. The altar was covered with abominable offerings that were forbidden by the laws. People could neither keep the Sabbath nor observe the festivals of their ancestors nor so much as confess themselves to be Jews.
On the monthly celebration of the king’s birthday, the Jews were taken, under bitter constraint, to partake of the sacrifices, and when a festival of Dionysus was celebrated, they were compelled to wear wreaths of ivy and to walk in the procession in honor of Dionysus. At the suggestion of the people of Ptolemais, a decree was issued to the neighboring Greek cities that they should adopt the same policy toward the Jews and make them partake of the sacrifices and should kill those who did not choose to change over to Greek customs. One could see, therefore, the misery that had come upon them.”
2 Maccabees 6:1-9, New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition
1 Maccabees 2:17-28
“Then the king’s officers spoke to Mattathias as follows: “You are a leader, honored and great in this town, and supported by sons and brothers. Now be the first to come and do what the king commands, as all the nations and the people of Judah and those who are left in Jerusalem have done. Then you and your sons will be numbered among the Friends of the king, and you and your sons will be honored with silver and gold and many gifts.”
But Mattathias answered and said in a loud voice: “Even if all the nations that live under the rule of the king obey him and have chosen to obey his commandments, every one of them abandoning the religion of their ancestors, I and my sons and my brothers will continue to live by the covenant of our ancestors. Far be it from us to desert the law and the ordinances. We will not obey the king’s words by turning aside from our religion to the right hand or to the left.”
When he had finished speaking these words, a Jew came forward in the sight of all to offer sacrifice on the altar in Modein, according to the king’s command. When Mattathias saw it, he burned with zeal, and his heart was stirred. He gave vent to righteous anger; he ran and slaughtered him on the altar. At the same time he killed the king’s officer who was forcing them to sacrifice, and he tore down the altar. Thus he burned with zeal for the law, just as Phinehas did against Zimri son of Salu.
Then Mattathias cried out in the town with a loud voice, saying: “Let every one who is zealous for the law and supports the covenant come out with me!” Then he and his sons fled to the hills and left all that they had in the town.”
1 Maccabees 2:17-28, New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition
ANTI-SELEUCID REBELLION IN JUDEA – MACCABEAN REVOLT
Mattathias started the Maccabean rebellion. They tore down pagan altars and circumcised uncircumcised children.
Mattathias’ son Judas Maccabeus led the rebellion when Mattathias died in 166 BC. He defeated the Seleucids, destroyed the altar of Zeus in Jerusalem, built a new altar, and installed a priest who had been faithful to God.
Exactly three years after the desecration, the temple was rededicated, and the daily sacrifices resumed. This is the background of Hanukkah.
1. REFUSE TO EAT THE KING’S FOOD
2. DREAM OF STATUE
3. REFUSE TO BOW TO THE STATUE
4. NEBUCHADNEZZAR IS JUDGED
5. BELSHAZZAR IS JUDGED
6. REFUSE TO PRAY
7. VIEWS OF 4 ANIMALS
8. VIEWS OF 2 ANIMALS
9. PRAYER 70 WEEKS
10.-12. WORDS ABOUT A BATTLE
2, 7, 8, 9 and 10-12 are about the future world kingdoms. 1, 3 and 6 show faithfulness under opposition. In 4 and 5, one king repents, and one does not repent. The climax is that God wants to be recognized by the kings of the world. 8-12 are addressed to the Jews; they are encouraged to show faithfulness in the face of persecution.
CHRONOLOGY AND LANGUAGE
Aramaic was the world language, so maybe some parts were written in Aramaic because they were addressed to the kings of the world. They encourage Christians to show faithfulness to God under pagan kings.
1. REFUSE TO EAT THE KING’S FOOD (Hebrew)
2. DREAM OF STATUE (Aramaic)
3. REFUSE TO BOW TO THE STATUE (Aramaic)
4. NEBUCHADNEZZAR IS JUDGED (Aramaic)
7. VIEWS OF 4 ANIMALS (Aramaic)
8. VIEWS OF 2 ANIMALS (Aramaic)
5. BELSHAZZAR IS JUDGED (Hebrew)
9. PRAYER 70 WEEKS (Hebrew)
6. REFUSE TO PRAY (Aramaic)
10.-12. WORDS ABOUT A BATTLE (Hebrew)
|KING||CHAPTER||YEAR||DANIEL’ S AGE (approx.)|
- The future world empires
- Faithfulness under opposition
- God wants to be recognized by the kings of the world
God directs history to establish His eternal kingdom. The people must be faithful, like Daniel and his friends. There will be more opposition, but God’s kingdom wins.
WHO WERE THE FIRST READERS?
- First and foremost, Judah after the exile. Encouragement to persevere in oppression and persecution, so that God’s plan may be fulfilled.
- Parts of it appear to be specific to “the time of the end” (Dan 11:40, 12:4) for Jews under Antiochus IV Epiphanes (2nd century BC).
- The Aramaic parts were probably meant for the world powers they refer to.
- the center of the “world” in the 5th century BC
- the biggest city, beautiful and spectacular
- many schools and temples
- music, literature, mathematics, art, wisdom, science, engineering and craftsmanship were at their height.
- was far ahead of Jerusalem
CHAPTER 1 (605 B.C.)
Strategy: “Babylonize” the conquered peoples so they would forget their original identities.
The teenagers were ripped out of their small context and moved to the world’s biggest city – with a completely different worldview.
1. They were given status: Serving in the king’s palace and eating at the king’s table
2. They were educated: Trained in Babylonian literature and language
3. They were given good food and drink: Babylonian eating habits
4. They got new names: A new identity
NEW NAME = NEW IDENTITY
Names were more important then than they are today. To change someone’s name was to exercise authority over them and their destiny.
Names containing -el (from Elohim, God)
Daniel means “God is my judge”
Mishael means “Who is what God is?”
Names containing -ah (from Yahweh)
Hananiah means “Yahweh has been gracious”
Azariah means “Jehovah helps”
Names containing bel (meaning lord—> marduk)
Belteshazzar means “Bel protects his life”
Names containing -ak (from the moon god Aku)
Shadrach means “Aku’s command”
Meshach means “Who is what Aku is?”
Names containing -nego (Nego = Nabo/Nebu: God of wisdom, literature and art)
Abednego means “Servant of Nego”
“But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine” (1:8a). This is probably because it contained unclean animals (according to the Law of Moses) and a link to Babylonian gods (food and wine sacrificed to idols as in Rom 14 and 1 Cor 8-10). Daniel could have thought that the deportation meant that the covenant had been broken and that this had no meaning. But he knew that it was God who was behind it (1:2, Ch. 9). His family had been under (and probably close to) King Josiah (640-609). Daniel was shaped by his godly upbringing. As a teenager, he is offered “the whole world” by the world’s most powerful man, but he still refuses. He is not deceived by Babylonian propaganda, wealth and status.
“Your character is formed in small decisions on little issues, which enables you to stand later when the big crunch comes.” David Pawson
HOW TO LIVE AS A CITIZEN OF GOD’S KINGDOM?
Daniel knew what would make him unclean so that he could not have fellowship with God through the Law of Moses. Jesus fixed this for us, but we are still called to keep ourselves clean:
- “Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” 2 Corinthians 7:1
- “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” 1 Thessalonians 4:7
- “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27
- “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2
What makes you unclean? Have you thought this through and drawn the line? How can you live accordingly without isolating yourself from the world?
God allowed the chief of the court to favor Daniel, not because he would play a decisive role in God’s plan but because God wanted to use Daniel in Babylon.
When we are faithful to God in “a foreign country”, then it may be that God gives us the right people’s goodwill so that God can use us too. Living for God is not necessarily the opposite of being useful in the world.
How does this encourage or challenge you?
“People with character are formed, they don’t suddenly appear.” David Helm
What role can you play in training the next generation to be like Daniel?
CHAPTER 2 (604 B.C.)
“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him.” 2:20-22
“In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.” 2:44
INTERPRETATIONS OF CHAPTER 2
“THE ROCK THAT STRUCK THE STATUE BECAME A HUGE MOUNTAIN AND FILLED THE WHOLE EARTH”
“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” Psalm 118:22
“He will be a holy place; for both Israel and Judah he will be a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare. Many of them will stumble; they will fall and be broken, they will be snared and captured.” Isaiah 8:14-15
Jesus uses both of these scriptures about himself in Luke 20:17-18.
The mountain of the Lord’s temple in Isaiah 2/Micah 4.
Daniel does not distinguish between the 1st and 2nd comings of Jesus, so we should not let this derail from the main point: God’s kingdom will follow the 4th kingdom.
“In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.” 2:44
THE KINGDOM OF GOD (VV. 34-35, 44):
- Crushes and puts an end to all other kingdoms
- Doesn’t seem as great as the kingdoms of the world
- Did not originate from any human
- Began small but will fill the whole earth
- Shall never perish, but endures forever
- Should never be handed over to any other people
HOW TO LIVE AS A CITIZEN OF GOD’S KINGDOM?
- We belong to the strongest kingdom, the only one that will last forever. The kingdoms of the world cannot be compared to the kingdom of God. Do we know it as well as Daniel? (Ch. 1) Do we remember which kingdom we belong to and which king deserves our allegiance?
- Are we deeply afraid that something could stop God’s kingdom? Persecution, politics, secularisation…?
CHAPTER 3 (586 BC (LXX))
“Raised/set up” is used nine times in this chapter about the image that Nebuchadnezzar has set up as a parody towards the refrain of the book, which is that it is God who deposes kings and kingdoms and raises others (2:21, 4:17, 5:21).
- “He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.” 2:21
- “The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people.” 4:17
- “He was driven away from people and given the mind of an animal; he lived with the wild donkeys and ate grass like the ox; and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he acknowledged that the Most High God is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and sets over them anyone he wishes.” 5:21
Was the purpose of worshiping the image of gold to unite the kingdom? (v. 7)
“Therefore, as soon as they heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp and all kinds of music, all the nations and peoples of every language fell down and worshiped the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.” v. 7
Worshiping the statue = worshiping Nebuchadnezzar’s God (vv. 14, 18, 28)
“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” vv. 17-18
They still did not believe, if our assumed dating is correct, that God had lost to the Babylonian gods even though the temple had been destroyed and the equipment of the temple had been taken over (1:2).
Readers under Antiochus IV would be in a similar situation.
WHAT GAVE THEM THE STRENGTH TO STAND FIRM?
Retrieved from James Montgomery Boice
- They knew God was in control. “God can save us if He chooses to.”
- They knew the scriptures. They knew that they should not bow down to other gods (Exodus 20:5). Moral issues are often not black and white. We must know God’s word to cut through the ambiguity.
- They were willing to die for their convictions. Many will not pay the price of loss of popularity or loneliness, ridicule, persecution, or financial hardship. Only those willing to pay this price make a difference.
James Montgomery Boice mentions various viewpoints that might have tempted them to bow to the statue: (the quotes have been translated)
“You three are obviously sincere and dedicated. We need more people like you, and that is precisely why you must listen to reason in this matter. For if you do not listen and instead continue in this disobedience, you will be killed and the beneficial influence you have on Babylon will be over. First, consider that their disobedience is already completely misunderstood. You believe that you stand for the identity of the true God. But what you are doing is actually perceived as political rebellion, in defiance of the king’s orders. You are not going to be executed because of religion, but for civil disobedience. So what good does it do to continue in this rebellious state? The right course is to bend, live, and extend their influence in other ways.”
“You must understand that Nebuchadnezzar is actually on your side. He didn’t have to give you a hearing. When he did, he didn’t have to give you a second chance. He has done these things only because He is already benevolent towards you and likes you. He does not want to execute you. I think that if you would just stand at a distance from the statue and tilt your head a little forward – you don’t need to bow on the ground – then Nebuchadnezzar would be pleased with that and respect you all the more. He would realize that it was a difficult thing for you to do, but that you did it for his sake. It takes brave men to make compromises like that.”
“Remember that in the NT it says that ‘an idol is nothing’. Then this is actually falling down and worshiping nothing, and worshiping nothing cannot possibly be interpreted as idolatry.”
HOW TO LIVE AS A CITIZEN OF GOD’S KINGDOM?
Jesus was completely obedient to God – even to the point of death for our sake. When we are not faithful, we can be forgiven because of what Jesus did. But we are called to follow Him in His faithfulness to God, by the power of the Spirit that dwells in us. We are called to be like Daniel’s friends.
What would we have done? Do we have the same attitude — in less serious situations?
We cannot say “everyone else does it”, because we belong to another kingdom. We cannot become like everyone else.
Is it tempting to think that “the end justifies the means” and that we can disobey God and even “pretend” that we deny Him if it leads to a good end result?
CHAPTER 4 (575 BC?)
Under Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon became the largest, most impressive and most powerful city, and he became the greatest king in the known world.
In many inscriptions, he presents himself as a great builder who is also very religious.
“he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” 4:30
IS THERE ANY SUPPORT FOR NEBUCHADNEZZAR’S MADNESS IN OTHER SOURCES?
We generally have little information about the last 30 years of his life. The Babylonian Chronicles end in 594 BC. A mental illness would probably not have been written down anyway.
- Megasthenes (ca. 300 BC), via Abydenus (2nd century BC) and Josephus (1st century AD), tells that Nebuchadnezzar from the roof of the palace, possessed by a kind of god, etc., cried out a warning that a Persian mule would come and bring slavery. Then he disappeared.
- A fragmentary Babylonian text says (if interpreted correctly) that life had lost all meaning for him, that he gave contradictory orders, refused to take advice, cared nothing for neither son nor daughter, neglected his family, and did not fulfill his duties as head of state.
- The Prayer of Nabonidus from the Dead Sea Scrolls allegedly reproduces the prayer Nabonidus prayed when he suffered from an inflammation for seven years, inflicted by the Most High God. He was exiled far away from people until he prayed to the Most High God and an exorcist, one of the Jews in exile, forgave him of his sins and told him to write a proclamation so that God could be glorified.
- This could be the same story, but with the wrong king.
- These traces together say that the events in Daniel 4 may have happened.
The refrain of the book:
“His kingdom is an eternal kingdom; his dominion endures from generation to generation.” 4:3
“Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.” 4:25,32
HOW TO LIVE AS A CITIZEN OF GOD’S KINGDOM?
“God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). What happened to Nebuchadnezzar must happen to everyone who comes to faith. Pride has no place in God’s kingdom.
- Like Daniel, are we able to tell “the bad news” to others so that they can realize that they need the good news?
- Do you talk to others about Jesus to see results, or do you do it in faithfulness to God?
CHAPTER 5 (539 BC)
Belshazzar was the son of Nabonidus (556-539), and a possible grandson of Nebuchadnezzar. He reigned as king approx. 553-539 while Nabonidus stayed in Arabia.
The historians Herodotus and Xenophon describe the same thing: the Babylonians laughed at the Persian siege because they had long expected an attack and had arranged large reserves.
They do not care and have a feast instead — with objects taken from the Lord’s temple (1:2) — in honor of the Babylonian gods, whom they believed had proved stronger than Yahweh, and thus would save them from the attack.
THE WRITING ON THE WALL
“Here is what these words mean: Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” 5:26-28
This prophecy is fulfilled only a few hours later when the Persians and Medes together capture Babylon.
Only the consonants are written in Hebrew; therefore, there are several possible interpretations:
Mene: “mina” (mene, about 50 shekels) or “talt” (mena)
Tekel: “shekel” (tekel) or “weighed” (tekal)
Parsin (pl.)/Peres (sg.): “half a mina”/”half a shekel” (peres) “share” (peras) Persian (paras)
“numbered, weighed, divided” (5:26-28)
Can also be translated as “Hectogram, hectogram, gram, half a gram” – that may indicate that the Babylonian kings declined in status.
HERODOTUS (4th CENTURY B.C.)
This historical source confirms the conquest of Babylon described in Daniel chapter 5:
“Whether someone advised him in his difficulty, or whether he perceived for himself what to do, I do not know, but he did the following. He posted his army at the place where the river goes into the city, and another part of it behind the city, where the river comes out of the city, and told his men to enter the city by the channel of the Euphrates when they saw it to be fordable. Having disposed them and given this command, he himself marched away with those of his army who could not fight; and when he came to the lake, Cyrus dealt with it and with the river just as had the Babylonian queen: drawing off the river by a canal into the lake, which was a marsh, he made the stream sink until its former channel could be forded. When this happened, the Persians who were posted with this objective made their way into Babylon by the channel of the Euphrates, which had now sunk to a depth of about the middle of a man’s thigh …. the Persians took them unawares, and because of the great size of the city (those who dwell there say) those in the outer parts of it were overcome, but the inhabitants of the middle part knew nothing of it; all this time they were dancing and celebrating a holiday which happened to fall then, until they learned the truth only too well.” (Histories, 1.191)
The book’s refrain: “The Most High God is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and sets over them anyone he wishes.” 5:21
Belshazzar knew what had happened to Nebuchadnezzar but still exalted himself against God (5:22-23)
CHAPTER 6 (539 B.C.)
WHO WAS DAREIOS? (6:1)
A. Another name for Cyrus. 6:29 can be read as the same person, and 11:1 LXX has Cyrus. He was partly a “Medic” (9:1) and was about 60 years old in 539 BC.
B. Another than Cyrus. He was king of the Chaldean kingdom (9:1), while Cyrus was king of much more. 6:29 then says that they ruled at the same time.
1. Gubaru – Cyrus’ governor of Babylon. Cyrus returned from Babylon after a few months, leaving Gubaru behind. But no signs that he was a Mede, called Darius, was the son of Ahasuerus or was approx. 60 years old.
2. Son of Astyages (“Ahasuerus” in 9:1), the last king of Media. Josephus says he took Daniel with him to Media.
3. Cyaxares, Cyrus’ uncle. Xenophon.
NEW KINGDOM — SAME CHALLENGES
vv. 5-6: Daniel is trustworthy. He does his job excellently; he neither neglects his work nor makes any errors. They must go to his faith to find something to fault him for.
vv. 11-12: Daniel does not care about the decree that makes it illegal to pray to anyone except King Darius. Although he serves the king as best he can, he will never worship him.
vv.14-19: Why should the king care about one Jew who was going to the lion’s den? Because Daniel was well-liked, a man of integrity who did nothing wrong.
Refrain: “His kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end.” 6:26b
HOW TO LIVE AS A CITIZEN OF GOD’S KINGDOM?
Follow Jesus and Daniel in being spotless and having integrity in everything (=what you do when no one sees you). Do your job as best you can. Make them have to look at your faith to get something on you. (Luke 6:22-23, 26; 1 Pet 4:15-16)
- “Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.” Luke 6:22-23
- “Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.” Luke 6:26
- “If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.” 1 Pet 4:15-16
What would they find if they investigated your life?
HOW HAS DANIEL’S LIFE HELPED YOU TO LIVE IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD IN THE WORLD?
- He was confident that God is the Lord of the world and of history and that he is building His kingdom.
- He read the Bible and knew why they were in Babylon, and therefore he was not willing to compromise his convictions, even in difficult situations.
- He prayed regularly. He set aside three times a day for prayer all his life. He knew God and had a relationship with Him.
- He could not be bought, but he prospered nonetheless.
- Non-believers liked him because he had integrity, not because he compromised with them.
- He was always “employee of the month”. No fault could be found in his work.
- He did not isolate himself but lived for God in a wicked world. He had a “worldly” job but was still in “full-time service” for God. He lived his whole life as a good witness and gave glory to God through his life and character.
- He was faithful and finished well. You never retire in God’s kingdom.
- Good wins over evil = God’s kingdom wins
- Not necessarily chronologically
ANIMAL NO. 1 (553 BC)
- Resembling a lion with eagle’s wings
- Known from Babylonian art
- An animal that becomes almost human → Ch. 4
- Nebuchadnezzar is compared to a lion in Jer 4:7 and Jer 50:17.
- Babylon/Nebuchadnezzar = the head of gold (Ch. 2)
ANIMAL NO. 2
The bear is higher on one side. If this applies to the Media-Persia alliance, it is interpreted as:
- The bear is Media-Persia. Persia became more dominant and eventually became the Persian Empire.
- The bear is Media. Was first a leading kingdom and then an inferior partner of Persia.
The 3 ribs represent:
- The conquests of Lydia (546), Babylon (539) and Egypt (525)
- The conquests of Ararat, Minni and Ashkenaz (Jer 51:27-29)
ANIMAL NO. 3
The Greek Empire (a) or Persia (b)
A swift animal with wings:
- Alexander came all the way to India in 8 years
- Much faster than the bear Media
The number 4:
- Alexander the Great’s 4 generals
- 4 corners of the world (wings) and 4 kings (heads) (11:2). Persia was at its height under Cyrus, Cambyses, Darius and Xerxes.
ANIMAL NO. 4
Roman Empire (a) or Greek Empire (b)
- It was bigger and stronger (but was stopped by Partia). Not so different from Greece either.
- It was western and not from the Orient. Was invincible under Alexander.
10 horns, 3 horns, one little horn:
- A large, undefined number (started as a republic)/complete world power/10 future states. 3 = small undefined number. Little horn: The emperors/Titus/Antichrist
- 10 independent states (2nd century BC) + 3 taken by Antiochus III, or the first 7 Seleucid kings + 3 that had to be taken out of the way before the little horn: Antiochus IV.
An argument for the 4th beast being the Greek Empire was that it would “will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it” (Dan 7:23).
The Greek Empire took over the same area as Babylon, Media and Persia, while most of these areas remained outside the Roman Empire.
THE KINGDOM OF GOD
God is on the throne.
White = purity
Wheel = Omnipresent
Flames/Fire = Doom? God’s presence?
The Son of Man will rule when the 4th beast is killed (—> Matt 28:18-19)
The earthly king uses the phrase “nations and peoples of every language” throughout the book of Daniel (3:4, 7, 29, 4:1, 5:19, 6:26) until the Son of Man is the one who is to be served by all “nations and peoples of every language” and put an end to the kingdoms of the world.
7:13-14: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” Perhaps both a) and b):
- Jesus’ ascension (Matthew 28:18, Eph 2:6, Psalm 2, Acts 4:25-26), as the kingdoms continue to exist after the Son of Man has gained all power (Dan 7:12)
“The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.” Dan 7:12
- Jesus’ return (Matt 24:30, 26:64; Rev 1:7, 20:12). Daniel sees the coming of God’s kingdom as one event.
“I approached one of those standing there and asked him the meaning of all this. “So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things: ‘The four great beasts are four kings that will rise from the earth. But the holy people of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.” 7:16-18
HOW TO LIVE AS A CITIZEN OF GOD’S KINGDOM?
We already live in this kingdom and will keep it for all eternity. Jesus will rule forever, and His kingdom will never perish.
Jesus has received all power — so that all peoples and nations and tongues will serve Him. Our task, as citizens of God’s kingdom while we are on earth, is to work for this to happen.
CHAPTER 8 (550 BC)
Aries: The kings of Media and Persia (v. 20)
550 BC: The year Media allied itself with Persia
Susa: The capital of Persia, Cyrus came from Elam.
Two horns, the tallest came up last: Persia became dominant in the alliance.
- Could be Babylon (west), Lydia (north) and Egypt (south). Not exact directions, but Persia still expanded in those directions.
- Or a picture of conquests except eastward because Persia was the kingdom in the east from a Jewish/Babylonian perspective.
The Goat: King of Javan (Greece) (v. 21)
Does not touch the ground: Quick conquest
Horn: Alexander the Great (first king, v. 21)
Charged at it in great rage (v. 6):Greece became a world power through a great and swift victory over Persia in 333 BC.
4 horns: Alexander’s 4 generals, divided the kingdom between them after his death (4 kingdoms shall arise, v. 22).
4 corners: Divided into north, south, east and west.
THE LITTLE HORN = ANTIOCHUS IV
The sanctuary was thrown down (v. 11): The idol altar in Jerusalem
2300 evenings and mornings (v. 14): The two daily sacrifices in the temple. 2300 evenings and mornings equals a little over 3 years before the Maccabees took it back.
He will cause astounding devastation and destroy the holy people. (v. 24): The persecutions
He will consider himself superior (v. 25): “Epiphanes”
v. 25: Shall rise up against God and “will be destroyed, but not by human power.”.
An encouragement to those Antiochus persecuted: God knows what is going to happen and is in control and will stop Antiochus. And after this comes the kingdom of God.
“‘Son of man,’ he said to me, ‘understand that the vision concerns the time of the end.'” 8:17
CHAPTER 9 (539 B.C.)
“This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years. ‘But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, for their guilt,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will make it desolate forever.'” Jer 25:11-12
“This is what the Lord says: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.” Jer 29:10
vv. 3-19: Daniel asks for mercy and is fasting
sin → forgive → act: city and temple
vv. 20-27: The answer. Even if the exile ends, it will still take 70 weeks for complete deliverance to occur.
70 weeks (“sevens”) to:
- bring evil to an end
- put an end to sin
- make atonement
- THE MAIN POINT: bring forth an eternal justice
- confirm what the prophets saw
- anoint the most holy
v. 24: The end result
Jesus did all of this anyway!
vv. 25-27: 4 steps towards the end result
- After 7 “weeks”: Jerusalem is rebuilt, and an anointed one comes
- Cyrus (Isaiah 45:1)
- The high priest Joshua during the construction (Zechariah 4:14)
- Zerubbabel led the construction (Zechariah 4:14)
- The city will be rebuilt in 62 “weeks”, but there will be tribulations.
- After 69 weeks, the anointed will be gone.
- High priest Onias III (killed 171 BC).
- Jesus is killed (and fulfills 1-6)
- Week 70: The city and the sanctuary will be destroyed, the sacrifices will be stopped, and on the wings of abomination he will come who destroys.
- 7 years =171-164. Antiochus IV stops the sacrifices in the middle of the “week” and the idol altar is set up.
- Year 70 (Matthew 24:15), sacrifices stop; desecrate the temple.
- Year 70 (Matthew 24:15), Jesus confirms the new covenant and ends the sacrifices after 3.5 years of service. Half a “week” until the second coming.
INTERPRETATION NO. 1 (7+62 WEEKS)
70 x 7 “weeks of years” (years are implied from 9:2).
Word in 586 ß 49 years → 538 ß 434 years → Onias 171 ß 3.5 years → desecration in 167 ß 3.5 years → 164
The first “anointed” (v. 25) = Cyrus / Zerubbabel / Joshua son of Jehosadak (all are called “anointed”).
The second “anointed” (v. 26): Onias (the priests were anointed, Leviticus 4:3)
All who adhered to the “covenant” during this “week” were severely persecuted. The last 3.5 years in particular were remembered as a time of trouble like no other.
Most modern interpreters and several in ancient times support this interpretation.
- The 62 sevens should be 434 years but are only 367 years. This is according to our chronology; we do not know for sure how Daniel dated the events. Perhaps 62 is a “round” number to maintain Jeremiah’s 70 years as a frame?
- This may have ended the sins of Antiochus, but not the sins of the Jews.
INTERPRETATION NO. 2 (69 WEEKS)
Word ß 483 years → Messiah
Many in the ancient church and Jewish scribes: Jesus’ 1st coming
- Artaxerxes I sends Ezra back in 458 BC (Ezra 7:11-26). Solar year: 26 AD
- Nehemiah was sent by Artaxerxes I in 445 (Neh 2:1-8). Messiah: 30 AD
- From 445 BC to 30 AD = 475 solar years. “Measured” = abbreviated: 490 lunar years.
“An anointed one” (v. 25): Jesus (fulfilled all 6 things in v. 24).
“the ruler who will come” (v. 26): Titus 70 AD Not yet emperor.
Justin Martyr: The Messiah had to come before the Jews lost their national government in the year 70 (Gen 49:10). The argument is repeated in almost all known debates between Christians and Jews about the coming of the Messiah, also by modern Messianic Christians.
- “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his.” Gen 49:10
God will take care of the sin, but the temple will actually be torn down again.
“He” (v. 27) = Jesus, makes a covenant for 7 years.
- Jesus’ ministry (3.5 years) + the time until the gospel is preached to the Gentiles. Problems: No event to end the 70th week, and nothing in the NT suggests a 7-year covenant.
- Jesus’ ministry + the Jewish war (about 3.5 years). The “days” in Mark 13:20 may refer to the last half week in Dan 9:27.
INTERPRETATION NO. 3 (69)
About the same as interpretation no. 2 until the 70th week, with a large jump between the 69th and 70th week.
“A coming prince” / “he”: Antichrist
“Covenant”: Antichrist’s agreement with the Jews to rebuild the temple
In the middle of the 7 years: The Antichrist stops the sacrifice and makes himself God (“the abomination of desolation”).
Built on Hippolyt (early 200s):
- 9:27 is Rev 11:1-13. Elijah and Enoch in the 1st half, Antichrist in the 2nd half.
- Thought Jesus’ return would happen 500 years after Jesus’ birth.
- First in the old church to time the return. Renaissance through Darby.
Problems: The jump is somewhat inconsistent, and the temple rebuilt.
INTERPRETATION NO. 4 (7+62)
Word = Jeremiah’s prophecy (as “word” in v. 23; also fits with Jeremiah in Dan 9:2, Jer 25:12f, 29:10)
Word 586 ß 49 years → 538… 440 ß 434 years → 6 BC… ß 7 years (?) →
“An anointed one”: Cyrus
Nehemiah’s rebuilding began in 440 according to Josephus.
Problems: Jeremiah’s prophecies of return appear to be closer to 597 than 586. (Or 605 in Jer 25:12?)
INTERPRETATION NO. 5 (69)
Much like interpretation no. 2. Not literal weeks but playing on the 70 years in Daniel’s mind.
Word ß 69 weeks → Messiah
“An anointed one” (v. 25) = Jesus (fulfilling v. 24)
“The people of a prince” = The Romans in AD 70.
“He” (v. 27) = Jesus
“Covenant” = the new covenant
“he will put an end to sacrifice and offering” = Jesus’ death
“him” (v. 27) = Titus is introduced
Judaism is over; now everything is about Jesus.
Daniel thinks physically and nationally; God thinks spiritually and universally.
DAN 10-12: A WORD ABOUT A BATTLE
Ch. 10: Introduction
11:1-12:4: The battle
CHAPTER 10: INTRODUCTION. WHO IS “THE PRINCE OF THE PERSIANS”?
1. THE DEMON OVER PERSIA?
He prevented the word of God from coming to Daniel for 21 days. Michael came to fight him.
The context seems to suggest angels (and demons) since Michael is also called “prince”.
A picture of a spiritual parallel to earthly conflicts.
Jews seem to have believed that every nation and person had an angel.
However, the Bible focuses on God’s omnipotence. He raises and overthrows kings without any mention of demons. Not much trace of this in the NT.
2. THE EARTHLY PRINCE/PRINCE OF PERSIA
Cambyses II was the prince at this time and king from 530-522.
Ezra 4:1-5, 24: The work of rebuilding the temple was hindered from the year 536 to 520.
Josephus: Work stopped completely under Cambyses II (approx. 530)
The officials (Ezra 4:5) could be people who were hired to go to the Persian court and stop the project (evidence for this is found in Josephus after 530, so maybe also before?).
If Cyrus had gone to Asia Minor (Calvin & Geneva Study Bible, 1599) or fought in the East (537-530), Cambyses would be the one ruling in the capital.
The angel tries to get him to do what God wants. The book is about how God intervenes against kings and kingdoms.
Objection: Michael is also called “prince” and is an angel.
THE CONTROVERSY (11:1-12:4) 536 B.C.
The main point: The Greek kingdom is falling — which means the Kingdom of God is coming!
Chapter 11: Especially important as it is so long and detailed. Would mean a lot to readers under Antiochus.
11:5-19: The battles between the Ptolemies (Egypt, the king of the south) and the Seleucids (Syria, the king of the north)
11:21-39: Antiochus IV
11:40-45: ” At the time of the end”… not historically correct if still Antiochus IV. And suddenly three actors…?
- Antichrist (since the 4th century). But the “time of the end” seems to be the end of the Greek Empire (8:17, 19; 11:35, 40; 12:4, 9)
- A jump to the end of the Greek Empire and the arrival of the Romans in the East. Verses 44-45 are about the Roman general Crassus, who attacked the Parthians (east and north) but was killed.
THE KINGDOM OF GOD
If chapter 11 ended with the downfall of the Greek kingdom, “At that time” (12:1) would refer to when God’s kingdom is finally established.
- a time of trouble: AD 66-70 (Mark 13:19) or generally (Acts 14:22, Rev 1:9)
- everyone whose name is found written in the book will be delivered
- resurrection from the dead
- many brought to justice
1290 days: Approx. the period of the Maccabean revolt (167 to 164 BC)? About the same as the 3.5 “times” in v. 7. Specifically: 3 years and 7 months (30-day months)
1335 days: 45 days more, to February 163 BC. If this is to be interpreted literally (Gurney). Antiochus IV died in the spring of that year.
“The most notable characteristic of the numeral 1,335 is that it is larger than 1,290. If then one makes it to the 1,335 days, he or she has outlasted the 1,290. Such persons have endured. They outlast the pressure, the persecution, the pain—they have gone through and beyond the trouble (cf. Mark 13:13; Heb. 10:36). The numerals may baffle us but the way they are used here simply implies that Yahweh has a people who will make it in spite of everything thrown at them.” Davis
SUMMARY OF CHAPTERS 7-12
The Bible is trustworthy, even if we don’t always interpret it correctly the first time.
God controls history and had planned to send Jesus at a certain time. He is still in control — humans cannot cause the end of the world unless He wants them to. He’s got the whole world in His hands.
Nothing can stop His kingdom, but there will always be difficulties for those who belong to His kingdom while they live on earth. We must remember that we belong to the kingdom that will outlast all earthly kingdoms, even after death.
HE’S GOT THE WHOLE WORLD IN HIS HANDS
Song by Petra
Hearts are falling left and right, children fear this planet’s plight Fatalistic fears abound and take their toll without a sound
But through the vague uncertainty comes a bold assurity This world is under sovereignty – divinely ordered destiny
He holds this world together with the Word of His power Safe within His hands til its own appointed hour
He’s still got the whole world in His hands – tonight
And only He knows where the sparrow lands – tonight
And nothing in this world can stop His plans – tonight
‘Cause He’s still got the whole world in His hands
In His hands tonight
Humanistic lies lament: the holocaust is imminent
Doomsday prophets in the news predicting who will light the fuse
The fate of His creation isn’t subject to a man
The final consummation is according to His plan
He’s still got you – He’s still got me in His hands tonight